We all know better than to believe the most recent Final Fantasy to be our last, and it’s persistent cast of mages, moogles, and guys named Cid has become far less fantastical than familiar, but the Tactics spinoff has yet to entrench itself so strongly.
Still only in its third installment, FF Tactics is like an engorged tick on our arm, and only one match to the skin will expose it for the parasitical life sucker it yearns to become.
The word “tactics” is defined as “the branch of military science dealing with detailed maneuvers to achieve objectives set by strategy.” In gaming terms, it evokes a plotting, plodding genre of tanks and hexagons, fog of war and field of influence, risk, reaction, resource management, positioning, and consequential choices.
Final Fantasy Tactics A2, even more so than Tactics Advance or the original Tactics, has none of the above. Nor does it offer the caliber of self-indulgently elliptic femme-boy parable to which this series has made us all over-accustomed. In fact, the already insulting bullshit-to-plot ratio of Tactics Advance has been distilled impossibly further down to “Illiterate sociopath teenager becomes contract killer / delivery boy in magical realm. Keeps journal.”
I’ve seen better plots in Grand Theft Auto. And, given that the game now progresses solely by going to the pub to sign up for plot-related missions amongst endless side-quests (pssst! Try picking the one quest that doesn’t have a time limit associated with it!), the comparison isn’t far off. Except that driving ambulances and beating whores is fun, while waiting your turn to chase down a defenseless bloodied bunny rabbit so you can finally learn how to become a Tinker is not. What the fuck good is a tinker anyway?
There aren’t even poisonous marshes anymore! Christ, archers can no longer shoot their friends by mistake (Believe me, I’ve tried.) And you give me 57 new jobs to waste my time earning but take away the Chemist? Becoming that useless item-mongering fuck was the only tough decision we ever had to make in these games! And what’s with all this racial profiling? Where is it written in Ivalice canon that Moogles can’t grow up to be Gladiators, or that No Mou can’t Dance? What would Barack Obama say?
aaand that makes one of us.
Instead of using the Turn Based Strategy genre to remind us how Final Fantasy became a household name in the first place, Square-Enix has taken the same tired formula of lining up to take turns hitting each other and moved it to a square plane with little hills and steppy stones. Which is not to say that positioning your unimpeded merry mercenaries on all four sides of an enemy for a care bear stare curb stomp isn’t a “tactic,” per se, but that there aren’t really any other choices a reasonable mind might make, which I’d argue removes this game from the strategy vein. A more suitable name for it would have been “Final Fantasy Tactic.”
And no. No you can’t skip animations. This is Final Fantasy, after all.